Dudley Court Press

About The Book


From 2009 to 2015 a dedicated band of warbird enthusiasts devoted themselves to restoring a WWII era B-17 Flying Fortress at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, located in Pooler, Georgia, just several miles from Savannah where the 8th Air Force was founded in 1942.

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    B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION weaves together personal narratives of individual volunteers to describe the story of the six year effort by those volunteers to overcome the challenges they faced to fulfill their dream to create a lasting symbol to honor their fathers and grandfathers and everyone who served in the Mighty Eighth.

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  • The entire book in 75 words

    In B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION the book’s author, and Project Manager for the restoration of 44-83814, Jerry McLaughlin, recounts the challenging effort to restore the 70-year-old airplane. Guiding a group of volunteers, with professional support from the Savannah aviation community, McLaughlin and his team began their effort by honestly stating, “We don’t know what we don’t know”….about restoring airplanes. Six years later, at the airplane’s dedication, he told an audience of 600, “We believe we have created, arguably, the finest operational static display B-17 in the world.”

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  • Testimonials


    The reader is about to embark on a unique story in the annals of military aircraft restoration. B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION is the story of a B-17G bomber, tail number 44-83814, from the time it rolled off the assembly line until its restoration was completed by the talented and dedicated volunteers at The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler, Georgia. I have seen other aircraft restorations, but none that equals the B-17 that now bears the name City of Savannah. Enjoy the read.

    E.G.“Buck” Shuler, Jr. Lt. General, USAF, Retired Former Commander Eighth Air Force

    In the restoration of the B-17G 44-83814, now known as the City of Savannah, we revivified an aged heroine still gleaming with the vibrancy of war and the lives that gave her mission and therefore meaning. Jerry McLaughlin’s well-written B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION is the story of those who returned this historic treasure to glory. It captures our traverse of seven decades and delivery of a singular work of man: a great machine of just war now on a mission of proud remembrance.

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, USA (Ret.) (“City of Savannah” volunteer and son of a USAAF pilot.)

    The story that you will read in B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION represents several distinct groups of people: those who fought and died in the sky over Europe; those who worked in extremely difficult conditions on the ground to keep the airplanes flying; and 70 years later, with equal resolve, their children, who conducted this restoration in order to assure that the memory of the sacrifices made by their fathers will never be forgotten.

    Dr. Harry Friedman, B-17 Co-Op, Memphis Belle Memorial Association

    In B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION, Jerry McLaughlin does a wonderful job of describing the process his volunteer crew went through to bring this beautiful airplane back to life. He also tells the story of the original City of Savannah and what happened to its crew, including my dad.

    Ralph “Kit” Kittle, son of the original 1944 pilot of the B-17 City of Savannah

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    B-17 FLYING FORTRESS RESTORATION describes how the restoration efforts began with a full year of cleaning crud from both the exterior and interior of the airplane, which had now been named City of Savannah, after a B-17 that had previously departed for the war in Europe with that name in December of 1944. The continuing story then describes how the cleaning effort evolved into employing the services of many skilled volunteers to bring the airplane back to it’s original glory, to include a completely restored and operational radio compartment, sheet metal work from nose to tail, and finally, the implementation of state-of-the-art 3D printing technology to produce parts for the airplane that no longer exist on the open market.

Tails of Two Cities


B-17 Flying Fortress Restoration

will tell you the story of the restoration of a B-17, named City of Savannah, (tail # 44-83814) at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, AND, the story of the first B-17 (tail # 43-38049) that carried the same name in 1944-45.

The original City of Savannah B-17 Bomber

          The B-17G, 43-38049, departing Savannah on December 4, 1944.

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    The original B-17 Flying Fortress to have the name City of Savannah came off of the Boeing assembly line in late 1944 identified as tail number 43-39049. At the same time the good people of Chatham County, Georgia, raised $500,000 to cover the cost of building a B-17 bomber and training the 10-man crew. Standard procedure in 1944 for matching crews and airplanes for deployment to the Eighth Air Force, in England, was for a crew to be transported to, and paired with an airplane at, Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia.

    Shortly after Thanksgiving 1944, the U.S. Army Air Corps assigned a flight crew led by Lt. Ralph Kittle to the B-17 financed by Chatham County, tail number 43-38049. The airplane was named the City of Savannah in honor of everyone in Chatham County who had donated funds to build it.

    The City of Savannah, and Lt. Kittle’s crew, departed Savannah on December 4, 1944. After their arrival in England, the Kittle crew underwent Combat Crew Training and was assigned to the 388th Bomb Group at Knettishall, East Anglia. The original City of Savannah was furnished with combat upgrades on January 12, 1945, and assigned to the 487th Bomb Group in Lavenham.

    Just five months after the City of Savannah landed in England, the war in Europe ended. Two months later, the airplane was flown back to the U.S. It landed at Bradley Field, Connecticut, on July 12, 1945. On December 4, 1945, virtually a year to the day after it was dedicated as the City of Savannah, the airplane was declared surplus equipment. No longer needed, it was sold for scrap.

  • The Current City of Savannah B-17 Bomber

    The B-17G 44-83814 arriving in Savannah, January 15, 2009.

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    The City of Savannah B-17 Flying Fortress that is now the centerpiece of the Combat Gallery at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force rolled off of the Douglas Aircraft Company production line in Long Beach, California, on May 15, 1945, one week after World War II ended in Europe. This B-17, with the tail number 44-83814, would never see combat. It would, however, manage to avoid the scrap heap and, instead, spend the next 30 years serving a variety of peacetime purposes.

    44-83814 was declared excess to military requirements on Oct. 12, 1945, and was ferried to a disposal depot operated by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation at Altus, Oklahoma. There it remained until 1947, when it was flown to Hazen, North Dakota, and parked in front of Public School #3 to serve as a war memorial. In 1951, California Atlantic Airways of St. Petersburg, Florida, acquired 83814. Two years later, California Atlantic transferred ownership to Kenting Aviation in Toronto, Canada. After a major re-configuration of its lower cockpit to allow for state-of-the art camera equipment, 83814 flew photographic mapping flights for Kenting from 1953 until 1971. On April 1, 1971, Kenting sold the B-17 to Arnold Kolb, the owner of Black Hills Aviation of Spearfish, South Dakota, and Alamogordo, New Mexico. Kolb retrofitted the airplane to serve as a firefighter/air tanker. From 1971 through 1981, 83814 flew several hundred missions, dropping fire retardant on forest fires throughout the southwest United States. In 1981, Kolb traded the airplane to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

    Finally, in 1984, Arnold Kolb and his son, Nathan, flew 83814 to Washington Dulles International Airport and formally delivered the B-17 to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where it languished in a hangar for the next 25 years next to the space shuttle Enterprise.

  • 1984, Dulles Airport: Arnold and Nathan Kolb, father and son,
    the final flight crew of 44-83814.

     44-83814 next to the Spaceshuttle Enterprise in a Smithsonian hangar,
    Chantilly, Virginia, 2008

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    In January of 2009 the Smithsonian gifted 83814 to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. The airplane was disassembled and its various components—wings, fuselage, engines—were loaded onto tractor trailers and transported down I-95 to the Mighty Eighth museum in Pooler, Georgia. On January 16, 2009, the airplane was squeezed into the Combat Gallery of the museum and reassembled over the next week. The very next day after the reassembly was completed, the restoration process began. After six years of work by a dedicated band of 150 volunteers, major restoration of the airplane had been completed to the level that it could be declared an official exhibit. In January of 2015, the museum held a dedication ceremony to honor both the World War II veterans who served in the Eighth Air Force and the volunteer crew that restored the bomber to like-new condition.

  • The City Of Savannah today


  • April 27, 2016SAVANNAH, Ga. – B-17 Flying Fortress Restoration, the definitive account of how a dedicated band of volunteers devoted six years to restoring a World War II-vintage Boeing B-17 bomber, is scheduled to be published July 20. Author Jerome J. McLaughlin combines a lively narrative with first-person accounts by many of the 150 volunteers who doggedly pursued the task of restoring the aging warbird to the condition it was in when it rolled off the production line in California in 1945. Today, the restored City of Savannah B-17 occupies a place of honor in the Combat Gallery at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler, a Savannah suburb.McLaughlin, a retired federal executive, had no aviation experience when he was asked to serve as project manager for the restoration effort. Instead, he was chosen for his management skills and his love of history, particularly World War II history. His first book, D-Day + 60 Years, recounts the story of his uncle, Lt. Joseph Sullivan, who was killed on D-Day when the C-47 he was navigating was shot down over Normandy while dropping paratroopers.“I began preparing to become the project manager for the City of Savannah restoration when I was about 10 years old,” McLaughlin recalls. “I was an avid reader and developed a strong interest in military history, especially military aviation with an emphasis on World War II. Perhaps the driving force in my interest was my uncle, who was KIA on D-Day. The mystery surrounding the circumstances of my uncle’s death was a constant subject on family occasions as I was growing up.” When he reached military age, McLaughlin passed on a teacher’s deferment and served in the military. Many of his peers went out of their way to avoid service, but he was proud of his decision. When he and his wife, Denise retired, they joined their best friend, Jim Grismer, in Savannah. “One of the first things Jim mentioned was that he and I needed to find out if we could get involved with the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum,” McLaughlin says. “We went out to Pooler for an interview and were hired as volunteers to work in the archives. As a World War II student and former history teacher, I had found a new home. My emotional connection to the museum’s mission of honoring the Eighth Air Force and its veterans, particularly during World War II, was engrained in me from Day one. I remember the first time I walked into the Combat Gallery. My reaction was, ‘There should be a B-17 in here.’ Little did I know.”After being appointed project manager for the B-17 restoration effort, McLaughlin compensated for a lack of technical expertise by assembling a team of volunteers and dividing them into three work crews. Each team was supervised by a military veteran skilled in aircraft maintenance and repair. Weaving together the volunteers’ individual narratives, the book traces the restoration project from the airplane’s arrival in pieces on the back of several tractor-trailers on Jan. 15, 2009, to the final dedication ceremony marking its completion on Jan. 5, 2015. The author devotes 300 pages and more than 100 photographs to the project. McLaughlin wrote the book to honor the City of Savannah volunteers who restored the B-17 as a lasting tribute to the thousands of World War II veterans who fought valiantly, to those who never returned, and to the thousands more who supported the airmen. The Eighth Air Force lost more airmen in World War II than the entire U.S. Marine Corps. Some 26,000 were killed and 47,000 wounded during the war. The restored airplane and the book also pay homage to the original City of Savannah B-17 bomber and the residents of Savannah who raised funds to build the airplane and train its flight crew. The original City of Savannah B-17 was the 5,000 aircraft to be processed through Hunter Army Airfield during World War II. The City of Savannah volunteers spent 12 months cleaning 25 years of accumulated crud from the current airplane’s interior and exterior surfaces before painstakingly restoring its aluminum skin, its operating systems, armament and even its nose art. The workers brought a wide range of skills to the task—they were airframe and power plant mechanics, painters, aeronautical engineers, electrical engineers, electricians, carpenters, radio technicians, business people and administrators, even a former physics professor with a Ph.D. and 30 years of flying experience. Many reported for volunteer duty after working their day jobs at Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, LMI Aerospace, Inc., or the 165th Airlift Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard. Others were retired and eager to make a long-term commitment to restore the vintage warbird. While all of the volunteers were aviation enthusiasts, others saw it as a deeply personal cause. The father of one volunteer was interned in Switzerland after his B-17 crashed while returning from a mission to Berlin. He escaped internment by skiing down a mountain in the dead of night, evading enemy forces, and joining up with Gen. George Patton’s advancing army. The family of a second volunteer suffered the loss of three sons, one in the tail turret of a B-17, and the imprisonment of three more in German and Japanese POW camps. The father of a third volunteer flew 58 missions as a bombardier. The restored City of Savannah B-17 on display today was built in May of 1945, too late to play an effective role in the war. By the time it rolled out of the hangar, the war in Europe was over, so it spent the next 30 years engaged in peaceful pursuits. It mapped the Canadian arctic, helped draw the Distant Early Warning Line, and served as a slurry bomber fighting forest fires. In 1984, it was acquired by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which tucked it away alongside the retired space shuttle Enterprise in a storage hangar in Chantilly, Va. And there it spent the next 25 years. The airplane, […]

About The Author

Jerome J. McLaughlin

Jerry McLaughlin began his volunteer service with the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in 2005 as an archivist. Along with two colleagues he received the Shuler Award for Museum Service in 2007 for their efforts in reorganizing the Museum archives. He was selected as the Project Manager for the City of Savannah restoration at the project’s inception in January 2009, and held that position until the dedication of the airplane in January of 2015. Jerry is a native of the Borough of Queens in New York City. He was raised on Long Island and graduated from Long Island University with a degree in United States History in 1973. He served in the United States Army from 1969-1971, stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, prior to a thirty year career with the Federal government. He retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 as a member of that organization’s Senior Intelligence Service. He and his wife, Denise, retired to Savannah, Georgia, in 2004 and live on Skidaway Island with a rescued Wheaten Terrier who now goes by the name of Annie.

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